December 11, 2001 GMT

Lots of black smoke from the back of the bike today. So I learn the meditative benefits of carb dismantling all evening. Doesnít do any good though.

The monsoon builds

Goa still has it border posts in place from when it was separate from India, ramshackle now. The steel barrier across the road is patched-up with planks of wood tied with rope. Someone must have hit that with something big. The guy asks for my carnet de passage. Give it. My passport. Give it. International driving permit. Give it. International certificate of motor vehicle ownership. Give it. Bike ownership papers. Give them. Driving licence. Give it. I have never had to show this much paperwork ever. Although the famous Bombay boob bus is history (for guys to come and ogle the western females on the beach), the wealth of Goa still draws policeman. They pay for a posting here. Big money, which they then recoup extracting tourist moolah.

Thereís a pause. ďSir, your pollution certificateĒ. Now thereís something I canít give. As both parties are full aware, it doesnít exist, and, indeed, is a bit of a bad joke in filthy stinking India. We knock the idea back and forth. He waves his finger and asks for twenty dollars. I politely decline. He sternly makes the international sign for handcuffs. I guess for a gap-year boy on a hired scooter down from the beach this would be terrifying. Itís a disgrace. Iím supposed to fall at his feet begging to be kept out of an Indian jail. In my best haughty western way I grab my papers and leave. I ride back twenty minutes fuming, furiously debating strategies in my head. But it is two dayís ride around this post. What is it stopping me paying the bribe? Behind most of guysí so-called principles is vanity. So I U-turn back to the border wondering what level of payment will save my precious pride.

This is the corner. Around this corner is my grasping guard. And then a funny thing happens. My right wrist is dipping, the revs are rising, I am really going to do this. And I do. At seventy mph I guess I am visible for only a couple of seconds before I am under the barrier. I take it on the right at its highest point, head tucked over the tank racing style. They really should have fixed it properly.

Asking for it werenít they? Was my man carrying a gun? Probably not loaded; heíd have to pay for his own bullets. No training either. Never hit me. Itís a rush all right. I am Steve McQueen, Barry Sheen, fit and lean, Roy Keene. Yippee yah hoo. Transalp transgressor. Catch me if you can.

I read a defence of the Indian bakshish system once. I think it was Mark Tully. He said it was democratic. Because it is so all pervasive and open, everyone gets a share. So the road workers build the road nine metres instead of ten, the inspector signs it off as ten, the contractor pays the contractee the necessary sum and everyone takes their equal share of the money created by the one missing metre. Sorted no? Just donít ask about the quality of the roads of the increasing number of maimed people.

Someone teaches me how to clean my air filter. Black smoke goes away. The magic of mechanics.

Posted by at 11:38 PM GMT

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